Then came the surprise: at times, fighting back tears, Matichuk told everyone at Verdichhio's the answer to the question she's been asked dozens of times: she wasn't running for re-election. The first woman elected mayor of Greater Sudbury was stepping down after one term – and almost four dramatic years.
Even after a bruising term, she's leaving office as one of the city's most popular politicians. A survey conducted in May by Oraclepoll gave Matichuk the support of 38.1 per cent of decided voters – more than twice her nearest rival, Dan Melanson.
The sudden announcement was almost as surprising as her entry into municipal politics in 2010, where she entered the race late as an unknown, and won on a pro-business, low-tax platform. But as is often the case in politics, winning the election was the easy part.
A council term often characterized by bitter exchanges between mayor and council, Matichuk found little support for her agenda among her 12 city council colleagues, who refused to support her agenda.
Minutes after her announcement last week, she sat down with Northern Life to talk about her term, her battles as mayor, and whether she foresees a return politics.
What's next for you?Well, it's one of those things. I never thought I would ever be the mayor. When I was five years of age, I didn't think I was going to be mayor. It just kind of happened. And I'm not sure … There's a lot of things that will probably happen in the next little while.
Are you hoping for a specific opportunity or job?Oh, there's always opportunities, right? I'm a health and safety professional. It's a field with lots and lots of opportunities.
You seemed to have developed a good working relationship with the (Liberal government led by Premier Kathleen) Wynne – even on a personal level.Absolutely. I really respect her. I think she's doing an amazing job. I've found every time I've had a conversation with her, she'll tell you straight out. She'll say, no, we can't do that. Or she'll say you know what? I think we can do it, let me get back to you. I have a lot of respect for that.”
You talked with her when she was still minister of municipal affairs in 2012, didn't you?I did – it was about recall legislation. And you know, she didn't have to see me. Nobody was talking about recall at the time. I thought it was something we should do in the province, and I still think it is.
Fast forward a couple of years, when all that (Rob Ford) controversy is happening in Toronto, we have everybody talking about recall. So I don't know if it will ever come, but I'm hoping someday it does. It's a privilege to be the mayor, right? And if you do something, you have to be accountable for it.
Any regrets?Me? No. It's been an honour. An absolute honor.
There's always something you wanted to accomplish that you didn't …I think it was the store hours. That was mismanaged, unfortunately. As a newbie, I didn't really understand, and relied on advice. And it wasn't the proper advice. It is what it is. I'm not blaming anybody.
In the media scrum, we also asked you about the low points. What about when Ombudsman (André Marin) was fired, that night in February 2013? Wasn't that a bit of a low point?I was shocked. I was sitting there going, 'What is going on?' It was just wrong. If you get caught speeding, you don't fire the police officer. I understand where people were coming from, and I respect their decision. But I would not go along with that decision at all.
You were elected on a popular platform, but once you became mayor, you didn't have the executive authority to implement it – unlike a prime minister or a premier, you had no lever. Should mayors have more power?The only way you could do that is if you did have recall legislation. Because if a mayor has veto power or something, you have to be very, very careful with that. That is a privilege that you're given.
I think there should be something in the Municipal Act that gives you the power to do certain things. But it is a double-edged sword. You have to be really careful. Councils are all same – you get 12 people at the table, it's like having 12 cooks in the kitchen. And that's what makes it interesting, right?